Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Interesting spin....

There have been one or two posts lately on t'internet about Derbyshire putting spin on the Rikki Clarke situation. I don't know if we are, but i wish we could find someone who can do it on the pitch.

I think Jake Needham is a promising young bowler but he has a lot of bowling to do before he becomes an established county pro. Nayan Doshi has bowled with great control at times but doesn't really look like running through sides. Several posters have suggested that "we need a better spinner".

My question is where is he?

When I was a kid (this is where I settle back in my rocking chair and call for my pipe and slippers!) most counties had a decent spinner. We're not here talking about pre-war, we're talking 1970's. Much as you could with overseas stars, you could go through the counties and come up with decent spinners. Miller at Derby, Ray East, David Acfield and Robin Hobbs at Essex - right through to Norman Gifford at Worcester and Don Wilson and Geoff Cope at Yorkshire.

What about today? The only counties who have spinners taking regular wickets are those whose wickets are prepared for them or the ones who have persevered with players for the 3-4 games a year where they do the business. Most of the spinners keep it tight, but few of them REALLY give it a tweak. I used to read about Jim Laker and how he'd bathe his spinning finger to toughen the skin where it had torn at the knuckle but I can't think there's much of that goes on today.

When people say that we should sign a decent spinner I can come up with Crofty at Glamorgan, Keedy at Lancashire, Swann at Nottinghamshire and Monty Panesar. That's about it and I'm stretching the term "decent" quite a bit there. Last winter when Ant Botha left, there were two spinners of any name on the market. One was Nayan Doshi, whose reputation had been made (and maintained this year) in the 20/20 where people try to slog him out of sight. The other was Worcestershire's former Zimbabwe slow left armer Ray Price, whose record in all cricket was decidedly underwhelming and didn't warrant serious consideration.

A few counties have gone overseas for players with some success (Kartik has done well at both Lancashire and Middlesex) but even Danny Vettori and Saqlain have struggled. Murali did a good job for Lancashire when he could play a game here and there, but even Shane Warne was only OK at Hampshire. I doubt any of their fans saw him bowl with the intensity that he showed in Ashes series and there were times when he appeared fairly ordinary, especially last year.

The problem is that while fast bowling can't be a barrel of laughs these days with the amount of cricket played, spinners don't have a chucklefest either. Tracks are rarely in their favour unless they play for Glamorgan or Northants, boundaries are pulled in to encourage big hitting and batsmen have bats that have enormous sweet spots and weigh the same as an average piano leg.
Pretty much every development in the game favours the batsman, while few encourage the bowler. When the odd wicket gives bowlers the upper hand, the ECB are quickly in to dock points and slap the county wrist. Maybe we should encourage the bowlers by allowing them to use a little vaseline when they've no atmospheric help, or produce balls with a bigger, more pronounced seam that will bite on the moribund tracks around the country.

I've said before that I get more enjoyment from a game where all four innings are around the 200-250 mark than from one where my county scores 800 to set a new club record. Sadly the powers that be don't appear to share my dislike, so we continue to have merely average players posting high batting averages while bowlers struggle to keep theirs below 35.

So if anyone thinks we need a new spinner, please start to work on a cloning machine and we'll have a Murali, a Derek Underwood or a Tommy Mitchell - hey, or someone who can bowl like all three!

PS Just had a look at Ant Botha's average this year. 14 wickets at 46, batting average 23. Jake Needham 10 wickets at 33, batting average 22.

Not really missed him have we?

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